AT&T Starts Throttling Heavy iPhone Data Users To 2G Speeds



If you’ve been whining about why the iPhone 4S has no 4G, get ready for a real letdown — 2G speeds. The move by AT&T to throttle its top 5 percent of data users to a snail’s pace is an unwelcome Christmas present for many iPhone users.

It appears AT&T is breaking the news to subscribers via text message. The text reads: “Your data usage is among the top 5 percent of users. Data speeds for the rest of your current bill cycle may be reduced.”

Earlier this year we reported on AT&T’s decision to throttle some accounts, starting in October. It’s unknown how much data you must consume to make it into the 5 percent affected by the throttling; however, AT&T has made it clear in the past that this move should only effect jailbreakers on unlimited plans who are using tethering Cydia hacks to get around subscribing to AT&T’s official tethering plan.

It is ironic that the iPhone may help AT&T add a record number of smartphones during the fourth quarter. This morning, the carrier proclaimed it’s network is the only one where “iPhone 4S users [can] download three times faster and talk and surf at the same time.”

While it’s unknown whether any other carriers will follow AT&T’s lead, the move could give an advantage to Sprint, which boasts no data limits. However it shakes out, I can just hear iPhone users adopting the “Occupy Wall Street” mantra: We are the 5 Percent.

  • Ed_Kel


  • davester13

    Remember, there’s always a top 5%, no matter how little or how much AT&T’s network is actually used.

  • Snoop

    Well I just broke 2GB of data for the first time in months due to iTunes Match.  No message for me, though.  I’ll be unlimited until they rip it from my hands.

  • Moog

    And if I’m one of the lucky ones who purchased the “tether” app in the short window it was legit???

  • gor3czny

    I am the 95%

  • szweiner

    Unfortunately, I got that message from AT&T. I have a 4S not jailbroken. I use I cloud and I believe that usage comes from my iTunes Match syncing music. If AT&T reduces my speed I and the 8 other AT&T iPhone users in my company will move to a new carrier!
    S Weiner

  • George Wedding

    Here we go — limited, “unlimited” service. Together now, everyone please say “Class Action Lawsuit.”

  • Ed_Kel

    Everyone is throttling.. Use WiFi.

  • Ed_Kel

    Throttling your speeds is not limiting your data. AT&T has done no wrong. You should be happy that they let you keep your plan, at the very least.

  • GregsTechBlog

    Verizon, here we come!
    How can they brag about having the fastest network if they throttle heavy users? The big reason to go with AT&T is faster 3G speeds. Throttling ruins that. I’d rather a bigger, consistent network like Verizon’s, and I’m sure most people would say the same.

  • Jdsonice

    AT&T is hell bent upon getting a bad rating from its users. 

  • Jdsonice

    Really? Throttling your speed to 2G when you are paying for 3G is breaking the contract that AT&T signed with the users. 

    Care to explain your viewpoint?

  • freighttrain2126

    But Verizon has no unlimited plan and 3G is much slower. Sprint would be the better choice, at least it’s unlimited.

  • GregsTechBlog

    Sprint is 10 times slower than Verizon though. 
    No lie: http://gregstechblog.blogspot….

  • Ed_Kel

    I will explain my viewpoint as soon as you show me where in your contract it says you’re paying for 3G speeds.

    3G speed isn’t guaranteed.

  • TheRealJTRay

    So is 2G faster than Dial up speeds, if so where do I sign up.  AT&T so called speed increase with HSDPA + has been a joke.  I am getting the same data speeds now as I did with the 3GS.  I can’t wait for LTE, but I am willing to bet that my unlimited data plan will not be able to transfer over to LTE.

  • Ed_Kel

    And I wonder how much your crappy speeds are because of data hogging.. My 4S downloads at 14mb/s except in the evening hours.

    It’s not that their HSDPA+ has been a joke, it’s great actually. AT&T is throttling their heavy users in an attempt to satisfy the speeds of ALL users. How is what they’re doing so wrong? Oh yeah, it’s only perceived as a bad thing from the 5% that are being throttled while everyone else are pleased with speed increases..

  • Mike Rathjen

    Screw the top 5%.

    WE ARE THE 95%!!!

  • Nick Ronin

    customer support already blows. why does it take 35 minutes of endless phone menus and prompts to get a human, then have that person tell you to dial another number to reach the correct department, which happens to be the number you dialed in the first place?

  • mikkeee

    GREAT! I’m on the bottom 5% so I should see increased data speeds… RIGHT?!?!?

  • hr85

    Only crappy thing is, is when we get next years iPhone with LTE, all of us who have been grandfathered-in will end up having to change data plans.  This will end up forcing us to lose our unlimited data.

  • 5aga

    how is this even legal?

  • 5aga

    you must work for AT&T

  • Srose428

    By limiting an “unlimited” plan is that not grounds for a lawsuit. If I ever get one of those messages, so god help the closest AT&T branch to me at that point in time. 

  • Ed_Kel

    No. I’m just someone that can easily rationalize business tactics. It’s not hard to read contracts and understand the thought process behind throttling. Speeds are better for the general customer base if you throttle top data users; users whom are already given the grand opportunity to keep their unlimited plan. It’s common sense. New users pay $10 for every GB they go over while unlimited users get throttled… Data and speed generally remain even and constant.

    Maybe if you burst out of your little bubble of a life and look at the grand scheme you’ll too agree.

  • MacHead84

    Well While ATT is certainly legally allowed to throttle speeds. Im not sure throttled to “2G” is legal. Because Edge is now under most data required processes unusable. 2G is now a strictly backup plan for urgent phone calls. 2G networks could handle data 4 years ago when webpages were plain text. In todays world 2G isnt usable for data. This would be essentially turning off your data plan. To lower 3G to a “slower” 3G is fees-able but not all the way to EDGE

  • 5aga

    yes its totally rational for a mega corporation to advertise and sell a product only to downgrade against the customer’s will when the said customer actually uses the product.

    get real.

  • Ed_Kel

    You aren’t limiting the data, you are throttling the transfer rate.

    What you argue for amounts to some asinine, ignorant thought that somehow, unlimited data and unlimited data speed are the exact same thing. Educate yourself, man.

  • Ed_Kel

    But still, 3G service is not guaranteed and somehow these people don’t get it.

    I like your input at CoM, Machead, but this time I must respectfully disagree. You can’t win lawsuits based on assumptions and opinions and personally, arguing that 2G isn’t capable of transferring data is just that. It is capable, just not in a timely fashion. Which, “timely fashion” isn’t grounds for any credibility. 

  • Ed_Kel

    AT&T no longer advertises unlimited data plans nor do they sell them.

    Go occupy something, douchebag.

  • ErinsDad

    The AT&T I know would have charged for that message…

  • steeeve

    If the top 5% is really (and this is a big IF) bogging down the network than this will be a good thing for the average AT&T user. Network bandwidth at any given time is finite. The people who pay the price for the biggest users are other users — AT&T’s costs on any given day are fixed.

    Yes we want them to build a bigger more robust network, but that’s a separate issue than managing traffic on the network we have this minute.

  • Ed_Kel

    Alas! A sensible thinker!

  • MacHead84

    Well All in All it really doesnt bother me because Im on unlimited but rarely use more than a gig a month anyways thanks to Wifi, but will be interesting to watch how it all plays out….

  • bigbrainonbrad

    I got this same text from AT&T almost a month ago. I was going to upgrade to the 4s on AT&T because I am still grandfathered in with the unlimited. Now I am wondering if I should switch to Verizon.

  • LeQuan Woods

    So I received this message yesterday and had my speed very noticeably reduced. I was only barely over 2GB! I am so outraged. I have been a faithful customer to AT&T for years and now I am being penalized for using my unlimited internet as just that: unlimited. When I called AT&T, not only had the representative never heard of it, he had to call two levels of managers upward before he could get an answer and they said that everybody gets the message and throttling when they reach 2GB. But I thought it was top 5%? Sounds like deception to me. Surely this is a tactic to get those of us who are paying for unlimited to give it up so we can pay more for one of the limited data plans. That is extremely unethical. The normal internet on a compurer isn’t slowed down when you use too much. The internet providers expand the network to handle the users. Why can’t AT&T do the same with as much money as we are paying them. If a lawsuit takes place, I will surely be on board.

  • JoshObra

    I got that text message a few weeks ago.

    I have unlimited data still (from iPhone 3G to now 4s) and I usually go about 2.3GB per month every month. I travel a lot, which means I use my online radio a lot (and browse the web wherever I go, gotta keep up on Facebook and Twitter you know). Plus I’m constantly on Amazon and eBay for buying things while I’m out shopping. I guess I’m using my data wrong then…

    AT&T, I suggest you put more servers up and fast.. seriously, where is all the money going?

  • editdroid2

    I got two of these messages the other day. Even if I’m grandfathered in with the unlimited plan, should I be getting this message? Does that mean AT&T will lower my bill to reflect the 2G data rate, when I’m paying 4Gs?

  • Honyant

    By making it the top 5% it leaves things wide open for deception as you would never know whether you were actually in the top 5% or not, having to take AT&t’s word for it. If they made it a GB limit you could at least see if they were telling the truth or not. Being able to redefine the term unlimited should be classed as deceptive advertising.

  • Honyant

    It’s always good to hear from the company shill.

  • Dating

    Given the recent Consumer Report rating for worst carrier around, AT&T should get their act together and stop shooting themselves in the foot. Deceptive advertising, unlimited data usage (define unlimited), and probably the worst customer support around are some of the things AT&T is really getting away with and no is doing anything.

  • narg

    I personally don’t have a problem with data caps.  Though they are too small at the moment.  What I’ve got issue with is that cellular data is the cheapest data on the planet.  Why?  Because there is no “last mile copper”.  The cost to run and maintain copper to a house is astronomical compared to the cost of passing data over the air.  Cell companies are making a mint off data, and moves like this only shows their greed.

    And, why not having higher caps? I’d be more happy to see pricing/caps like:
    .5 gig = $10
    2 gig = $20
    5 gig = $30
    15 gig = $40
    50 gig = $50

  • narg

    except with Verizon, you’d get slower than 2G speeds all the time…

  • narg

    …except Sprint is even slower than the slower Verizon.  AT&T has a captive market here, and they are abusing it.  Heck, all cell phone companies are abusing the consumers on speeds and data charges!

  • narg

    Um, yes it is limiting your data.  Your ability to consum has been reduced, therefore limiting it.

  • Remington Jackson

    I gotta admit I like that. 30 bucks for 5 gigs if that was the case I might get out of my unlimited plan.

  • smasma

    Yeah they acted like they were only going after data abusers but they are now threatening to throttle people after only 2GB of use. 
    ATT has awful service, terrible customer service, and now they are liars and bait and switch artists as well.

  • Zach Sklar

    I have an unlimited plan and I got this notice after only using 2.5GB of data last month!!!!! That’s such a joke!! I usually use 1GB per month on average in the past year. This is criminal of AT&T and a group lawsuit amongst their customers needs to begin. They are clearly trying to get people on unlimited over to their 2GB plan or overspend on their 4GB plan. They should have a 3GB plan for $30. They tier their plans so they can make the most money! Their contracts are misleading as well. They’re such crooks!!!! I’m sick of it. What can we do????????

  • Zach Sklar

    Well, they are charging $30 for unlimited now and capping you at just over 2GB, which is hardly the “top 5 percent of all data users”. I’m paying $30 now and they slowed me down after using only 2.5GB. Such a joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Zach Sklar

    Your talking about throttling the top data users as if that is what they are doing. Well, it’s not! They are throttling their unlimited users that are using the AVERAGE amount of data per month!!!! I am an unlimited subscriber and in the past year I have averaged 1GB per month or LESS. Last month I hit 2.3GB and got a notice that I was in the top 5% of the heaviest data users, which is total B.S.!!!!! They are clearly trying to get unlimited data users to move over to one of their tiered plans. This is deceptive and illegal!!!! They need to get slapped with a lawsuit immediately! I’ll sign up for it and do what it takes to STOP this!

  • Zach Sklar

    Who cares, they are still honoring the ones that have always had the unlimited plan, however, they stopped doing so by throttling minimal use on the unlimited plan. Ed_Kel do you work for AT&T?? You must, because you have no f’ing idea what you are talking about!

  • Zach Sklar

    Oh, you will Snoop. I am on unlimited and averaged 1GB per month as I usually use WiFi when available. I used iTunes Match last month and hit 2.3GB and guess what AT&T did….THROTTLED!!!! 2.3GB is average usage. Not even close to the “top 5 percent of data users” 5GB on up is probably closer to the top 5 percent. AT&T needs to be sued!!!!!

  • Ed_Kel

    Seriously? Are they blocking you data? Do you know the definition of limiting in terms of your data?

    Wow, you’re delusional my friend.

  • Koz

    Weird, I consistently go well over 3GB because I stream radio for 8 hours a day at work (not everyday, but most days). Sometimes I even hit 4 GB and i’ve never seen these texts from AT&T. Oh well…

  • Ed_Kel

    Look, they charge tiered plans 10 dollars for every gigabit over 2 (or 4 if you tether) and it is simply unfair to allow unlimited users to go haywire with their data without some sort of repercussion. Their unlimited plans are no longer feasible yet they were nice enough to allow the user to keep them. You’re paying the same amount (maybe a TAD more) than limited users and have the ability to consume data in any amount you deem necessary without overage charges, but that isn’t enough, is it?

    My point is, AT&T is doing you a favor by not charging you for overages that other users acquire. In terms of legality, they no longer offer such plan and they reserve the right to do whatever they want to level the playing field for all users. The only way this would be a case worthy of a winnable lawsuit is if they throttled 2GB users before reaching the 2GB limit, not throttle users that pay for unlimited access to data. Get where I’m going with this? growing amounts of smartphone users on a finite network (expansion is another debate for another time) require some sort of limitation and I’m simply making the point that AT&T is well within their limits by throttling overages, or heavy users.

    Contracts change all the time and I am willing to bet that your contract says that it can change without notice. Do you really think that a board of attorneys representing a publicly traded company would jeopardize said company over a small throttling issue? There are plenty more people smarter than you working this policy. You don’t have to believe me, but someday you’ll come to grips with the fact that you are just plain wrong.

    And no, I don’t work for AT&T. I’m a level-headed man that understands the rationalization behind policy issues.

    P.s. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m having a hard time understanding what has you all pissed off for. You were throttled last month after 2.3GB (or is it 2.5 because you say both? Wait, I’m confused, how could you NOT know what your usage was when you received notice? Did you even receive notice or are you lying to us? Hmm… I digress) and I’m willing to bet that your throttling was towards the very end of the month, especially considering the fact that you claim you “use WiFi when available”. You’re an awful pissed off individual for a 2-5 day throttle, max. You should feel lucky, some people in some areas only have EDGE reception, and you’re pissy, crying foul attitude towards throttling just makes you and everyone else here look like a pretentious dick.

  • Gregory Bouma

    it seems like they should have to prove we are the top 5 %, it would be nice to see more people using more data, showing them they have to increase there network capacity.

    i got my first message the other day.y I checked my usage i was at 5.2 gb with 3 days left of my cycle.

  • Chris Lassiter

    Use WiFi? That’s what they want you to do. Pay $25 a month for data usage and then because you’re worried about going over your cap (which is a bullcrap made up number anyways) and/or getting throttled, you have to use a different source for your data. That’s like saying I buy a car and pay all the fees for it but then the government says I can only drive so far at a certain speed, and when I hit that certain mileage I can only go 25 mph the rest of the month or I have to find another means of transportation. Yeah, I agree with you that people are overreacting but the fact that they’re throttling to band-aid their situation doesn’t help any. The situation being they’re shitty at everything they do. 

  • AyaisMUsikWhore

    Sorry anyone who defends this shit obviously has either lost there mind or their head is so far up At& T’s ass that they can’t see the way out. I hate Atnt with every bone and fiber in my body because all they do is rip people off every single day and act like it’s OK. Like they don’t give a fuck and half the Time they won’t even negotiate, it’s just that take it or leave it attitude. I hope someone puts there ass out of business because this shit is ridiculous. 5% does not effect 95% percent so please get that fucking math right. And besides, that 95% is barely touching their limits so that just an excuse to charge you more or just simply “throttle ” you down. If sprint even with there semi slow speeds (depending on where you live) fan do it with basically 75% of their customers on unlimited, why the fuck can’t they. I call bs. I always hated selling atnt because people would always come back complaining but i will never again trust me.

  • Michael Mazza

    Well, you can rule out that AT&T is only targeting jailbroken users. I received the text 2 days ago, and I am only at 2.5GB cell usage for the billing period.  Sounds like AT&T is at their old deceitful tactics again, by ONLY targeting users who are on the grandfather unlimited plan.

  • JayAnonymous

    Hey Zach, same thing happening to me. I’m in process of forming class action suit for this reason. Hit me up in twitter: @NewGorgeCiti

  • IOP001

    I too noticed throttled speeds this week when I hit just over 2GB of data. My download speeds are now at 0.02 MBps and uploads hovering around 0.10Mbps. Such decrease in speed has rendered the phone useless as it takes ages to load webpages and many times the images refuse to load due to time outs.

  • Cynthia Powell

    AT&T has taking all of the enjoyment from the iPhone!!!
    I’ve been an iPhone user for over 3 yrs now and never had these issues with AT&T. A few months an AT&T Rep. tried to convince me to downgrade my unlimited plan because they claimed that no one really uses that much data.  I declined the offer to downgrade even when they offered me money off my bill to do so (which sounded a little suspicious to me).  Why is AT&T offering to pay me to down grade my plan….and now I see their hidden agenda when I got the first notice of me being in the top 5% of date usage.  What is the point of them sending me this message when I have a unlimited data plan!!!  I call AT&T asking them what that message was all about and the Customer Service Rep. explained to me that my phone will drastically slow down if I continue to watch Netflix, listen to Pandora, or go on YouTube.  So basically they are saying all the advantages I have with having a iPhone AT&T is now taking away from me.  I couldn’t believe this and I asked them to let me out of my plan and waive the cancellation fee(which of course they declined). When I signed up for AT&T iPhone plan I was under the understanding that I can do all of these things and then some without any interruption if I added the unlimited data plan.  After explain to the Representative about how unfair this to the customer she offered me to downgrade my data plan (ONCE AGAIN) to the 2GB and if I go over I will just be charged $5, and my service will not be affected if I go over.  I don’t know if I understood this and/or even heard her correctly:  She just informed me that AT&T found a way to get more money from customers by taking away something that they offered at a set price by causing interference than charging me additional for the same service without the interference which they cause!!  I think whoever made this decision with AT&T to do this is absolutely CRAZZZY especially since  Verizon as well as Sprint is now carrying the iPhones.  I was never loyal to AT&T I was only loyal to Apple and now that AT&T is trying to get more money from and provide the same service is crazy.  My contract is up at the end of Janaury and I am going to SPRINT!! Sprint offers unlimited data plan at cheaper cost than AT&T as well as uninterrupted unlimted data plans.  SMART DECISION AT&T to open doors of opportunity for your competitors (SARCASM)

  • Mario Gonzalez

    Top 5% of data usage means anything over 2GB of data.  As far as I remember, if you had unlimited data usage you had “unlimited data” usage.  At one, point it began meaning at least 5GB was the norm and anyone over that was over using it (read some report long ago).  But to throttle you’re speed to what appears slower than their Edge network, is making all these devices not work as it’s original intent.  I won’t pay for anymore money than I already pay.  This is a tactic to get people to switch to their tier plans and charge them more money, how else do you explain?  Is everyone that goes over 2GB on the top 5% list?  I highly doubt that.

  • Super_Negra

    I’m being throttled now.
    I’m grandfathered into the unlimited data plan. I’ve had the iPhone 3G, 4, & now 4s. This is the first time I’ve been throttled. I am thinking its because I watched a hd quality 2 hour music concert last month. But I’m still puzzled. Maybe this is a tactic to switch plans which sucks…I’m not leaving ..fck you AT&T I’m not leaving my unlimited data…fck you!!

  • mendeznoel20

    Ive used about 6 gigs of data and then i got that same message. Now my data speeds are like 0.15 MBPS. Can i cancel my contract for att doing this?

  • Nancy Blum

    On 12/11, I finally upgraded my 3G iPhone to a 4S iPhone, and kept my grandfathered unlimited plan on AT&T. On 12/27, I received my 1st “high data usage alert” from AT&T. With a few days left of my billing cycle, I apparently had just exceeded 2 GB of data. There is no way I’m in the “top 5 percent of all data users.” Clearly, AT&T is sending these alerts to ALL users who exceed 2 GB. They’re trying to get us to “voluntarily” leave the unlimited plan because they expect a big outcry when they cancel the unlimited plan. It is such deceptive advertising for them to claim they only throttle the “top 5 percent of all data users.”

    Had I realized that AT&T would throttle data for people who exceed 2 GB, I probably would have bought my 4S from Verizon. What recourse is there? I’m interested in finding out more about the class action lawsuit. Also, is there any recourse from any governmental agency to get AT&T to have some transparency in their data policy?

  • Dgray337

    We all need to boycott AT&T and really hogged data this is how I’m fighting back
    Riding My Unlimited D to the end!!

  • Dgray337

    We all need to boycott AT&T and really hogged data this is how I’m fighting back
    Riding My Unlimited D to the end!!

  • John Fink

    AT&T has told me once you cross into the threshold they determine to be the 5% your stuck there and the move is “temporary” – by guess is they’ll be hearing from the 5% frequently. I probed for a number and they said it should start at 2GB, but that it’s mathematically determined by a very complex formula – – okay – but essentially they could be throttling more than the 5% if once you’re on, your stuck there (I have 20 more days to go in my billing cycle). 

    The problem of coarse is two fold: 1.- Apple has approved apps and improved services via iOS 5 that require a lot of data and 2.- Those that are data users are more likely to voice their opposition to this plan. I suppose this is what net neutrality doesn’t look like – – but for a system that doesn’t work all that well in Manhattan for example (there are a few blind spots) to have them purposely throttle so that many of my Apps now can’t work as intended (i.e.: Netflix) – I’m going to look at what Sprint is offering.

  • gLaDiAtOr

    this is ridiculous. i can understand throttling people at 5GB, but why at 2GB? as many have stated, i doubt that is the top 5%. hell they offer a 2gb plan. how is going over that by .01 worthy of throttling??????

  • Lejf Rossi

    I have 11 gigs (watch a lot of netflix and download a lot of twit) on my phone and I have not gotten the message. 2 gigs is crazy!

  • Lejf Rossi

    No, In the middle of the night att is faster but during rush hour and times like that they rule. in princeton there is always a gridlock.

  • Lejf Rossi

    i don’t think they really calculate the top 5 percent. I used 11 gigs this month without a problem. (Comcast data caps and had to take the phone off of wifi). BTW, I am not tethering! I just watch a lot of netflix

  • Lejf Rossi

    maybe on their homepage they can saw what this months top 5 percent is. I don;t care if it is changing, I would just like to know so I know where to stop

  • HolyPhyre26

    This is not right. I had no idea about the throttling until now. What is really rotten is that they don’t start throttling me to make me aware of the issue until RIGHT after i renew my contract in December-_-.  After doing some research, they started in October. Why didn’t they throttle me then or in November, before i renewed my contract?! This is so rotten….

  • Michael Vargo

    then maybe it is time to drop AT&T and switch companies. Their 3G system is not that sharp either.

  • JohnS

    I don’t fall for those BS 2 year contracts any longer.   Buy your device outright so you can dump these greedy slime balls when they do stuff like this.

  • x

    I filed an FCC complaint for false advertising and you should too.  This is barely legal and certainly unethical.  We were sold an “unlimited” plan to lure us into a 2 year contract but it was a bait and switch.  What they are actually doing is preserving the bandwidth so they can give it to other customers who paid more for their plans.  Imagine buying an airplane ticket, then learning at the airport that your seat was sold to a higher bidder and you cannot get on the plane.  This is the same thing.  It is making so many people so angry that i cannot fathom how someone thought it was a good business decision.  Unfortunately they will absolutely not release you from your contract without penalty, even though the contract was premised on a lie.

  • Ryan Roskey

    it depends when you use it i got this text saying i was approaching the top 5 3 days after my billing and I used 100 megs of data. AT&T are crooks. Edge is actually twice the speed that they are throttling down to. Websites time out and don’t even load. I am dumping them and going to sprint. at speeds of 480kbps on average, with peaks of 2.22Mbps instead of AT&T 3Mbps unthrottled and 70Kbps throttled i see a better deal.